HEFEI • Some provinces and cities in China are considering a "filial holiday" exclusively for busy people to spend more time with their parents.
Beijing has proposed this in its 2016-2020 development plan encouraging employers to grant days off to employees when their parents celebrate a birthday, need medical help, are seriously ill, or are dying.
A similar document released by east China's Anhui province encourages adult children to live near or with their parents, and asks employers to grant paid leave to those who take care of disabled parents.
Some other provinces even allow an only child to take up to 20 days off each year to care for parents over 60 years old and in hospital.
"Such time off is precious to me," said Ms Li Tingfei, an only child who works in Anhui, with her parents in Chongqing municipality.
"Calls and video chats, no matter how frequent, are no match for having a meal at the same table with them, or looking after them when they are ill in bed," Ms Li said.
But Ms You Xiaoxu, an intern at a hospital, is more concerned about whether the holiday will ever materialise. She works in a city just two hours away from her hometown, but tight scheduling and workload make it impossible for her to go home much.
"Doctors are so overwhelmed by work that they cannot even enjoy normal weekends or statutory holidays," Ms You said.
According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, there are more than 220 million people aged 60 years old or above in China, accounting for over 16 per cent of the population. The National Health and Family Planning Commission also warned in a 2015 report that the number of empty-nest families is growing.
"It is necessary for an ageing China with a considerable number of one-child families to add a 'filial holiday', but effective execution will need the joint efforts of various parties," said Professor Fan Hesheng, a sociologist at Anhui University.
He said employees and employers should already know that taking care of the elderly is a legal responsibility and moral obligation.
Prof Fan pointed out that the key to successful family life has always been love and devotion, not a holiday.
"People who have no filial piety, even while under the same roof as their parents, hardly care. Some even live off their parents," he said.